The Break at the End of the Year

By fireplace nook or snowy windowpane, wherever this finds you, I hope you make some time for a little catching up with us at the Video Game Academy during the holidays.

Browse the post archives, poke around in the course links and resources, and generally stir up some dust revisiting the classic games and books we like to discuss.

Speaking of which: “At the present rate of progress,” Sir Philip Pullman says of Roses from the South (as yet unconfirmed title of his Book of Dust Volume 3), “it would be late next year” that it’s ready to release. That was in September 2022, according to Twitter/Reddit. So we have a while to wait yet. This time next year, perhaps, we’ll have more to say about it, and about the as-yet-imaginary games this and much of his work might yet be made into.

Though given his (and our) history of such prognostications, particularly with third and presumably final books in a series, perhaps not so fast.

In the meantime, there are a few more of Pullman’s stories to tide us over. From The Haunted Storm and Galatea to Serpentine and The Imagination Chamber, along with more reviews of the BBC/HBO adaptation and a playthrough of Undertale to balance things out media-wise, there’s plenty to look forward to in the new year.

So I hope this finds you well. Thanks again for reading, listening, and playing along.

Smatterings of Press

In the world of video game academia, we’re pretty small potatoes. But small as we are, we are!

The next iteration of Video Game Studies will (maybe) be taking place on Signum’s SPACE Program in January. It’s dependent on participant interest, so give it a look here. The long and short of it is, we’ll be reading Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin, and discussing video games a couple hours a week. We’ll look at classic games and genres and considering how they tie into the novel form a variety of critical and imaginative lenses. If all goes well, I’ll follow up with future courses in SPACE. I have a notion I can write something for this CFP on “The Post-Gamer Turn” into the bargain.

Meanwhile, the Twitch stream for younger readers in Signum Academy continues next year with more video game discussions. I’m planning on adapting material from the days of Outschool (which I joined in the first place trying to get traction for SA). More news on that to come.

A couple of notes about other past and current versions of these courses: the Science of Video Games, which Stephanie taught last year, more or less complete, can now be found here, and the Language and Code Cafe iteration of last year’s wellness I’m revamping for The Community School in Spokane got a little write up from the local news.

With all that going on, the time has come for us to be shuttering the patreon. We’re feeling pretty launched at this point, and there’s plenty of other worthy causes out there to support–such as Professor Kozlowski’s lecture series.

Many thanks to everyone who helped us get going. We’re back on this horse, this Rocinante, this quixotic Rocket sim.

This potato thanks you!

Stories of the Year

Welcome back!

With our first goal for audience participation met and exceeded, we’ve gone ahead with a few upgrades to this site. Please cast a weather eye over the posts and pages and let us know if you spot any errors that have crept in with the new design. One thing you shouldn’t run across anymore are those bothersome ads. Thanks for putting up with their ilk thus far, and good riddance to them, along with the rest of a bad year!

This week we invite you to reflect with us on 2020 in terms of the video games that helped get us through it. From Animal Crossing: New Horizons to Cyberpunk 2077, we survey the year in games and consider some of the larger trends in the industry. How do open-world experiences like Breath of the Wild (a few years old already, but it’s new to me!) compare with the self-contained qualities of classic games and the innovations of indie studios? Where do we see ourselves heading next as a gaming community or a culture, and what resolutions do we have personally?

Enjoy this first half of our double-feature discussion from New Year’s Eve (and into the new year), The Video Game Academy Year in Review. The second half will be released next week, investigating the genre of visual novels.

More previews and plans for the coming year will be announced shortly, as we continue to expand our inventory here at the Academy. Thanks again for taking part in the adventure!

Speedrunner 100% Completes The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild In 24  Hours | NintendoSoup

Retrospectives and New Horizons

At our academy the patreon remains steady, the discord small, but the discussions lively. Somehow we’ve made it through our first year. Let’s celebrate with some good old-fashioned retrospection, and look ahead with much gusto.

First, a fun discussion about Animal Crossing with the better half of the Video Game Academy and our stalwart third-strongest patron. Happy Holidays!

Animal Crossing New Horizons: How to Start the Wedding Season Event, What  Rewards Are There? | USgamer
From a quaint wedding season guide at USGamer

As mentioned there and in the final Hex discussion, whose audio we’ve hidden behind fiendishly difficult ciphers buried in an imaginary friend’s video game’s code–or possibly just lost–we have big plans for our Video Game Academy in the new year. On the academic side, we’ll continue conversations invaluable in the moment and still pretty interesting after the fact. We owe Steve a few videos. They may end up being little more than slideshows, but we shall deliver. We want to weigh in on more major releases and relatively new games to go with the classics, and we have ambitions to offer critiques and reviews of others in the field. Besides books and articles, that means videos, podcasts, and all the fun social media artifacts out there might be fodder for debate.

Would a fresh run at more established youtubers and podcasters net some new readers? Certainly their audience is apt to overstate the strengths of their analysis, if the effusions of the kids on Outschool are any indication. Maybe this is the time to make mini-overtures, via comments and retweets, and try to find a few kindred spirits.

Surely the place to build out first, though, is at home, by restoring the confidence and earning the trust of such audience as we have already got with more consistent, quality posts. In terms of form, this means upgrades to the website, better recordings, and dipping a toe into those daunting videos and streams everyone seems to like so much. As to content, cool little games like Among Us and Animal Crossing are the order for the holidays, although thereafter it might be time to tackle Nier: Automata. Down the line we’ll see about another ur-text like Chrono Trigger or Mario RPG.

By the muddle of my words I come to know the jumble of my thoughts, and yet it still seems to me that some teaching of video games should be possible, even desirable, in the vanward of this larger project of educational renewal and reimagining that we’re after. What would a curriculum, to say nothing of a canon, of games for learning and discussion look like? We’ve been circling around this question informally, but now that it’s stated, we can hope to explore it directly.

The role of games has always been prominent in the fantasies of learning and teaching, from the Sword in the Stone to Harry Potter, Rabelais to Emile, Chaucer to Tristram Shandy, Huck Finn to Hopscotch. A long-term project for a series of posts over the coming year, then, will be a guided tour through the representations of play and games in literature.

Just as salient someday, perhaps, will be some of these first forays into video game studies and the popularization thereof. Atop the to-read stack: Pat Holleman’s Reverse Design series and Boss Fight’s lineup of authors and editors; Bogost’s Rhetoric, Kohler’s Power-Up, Bissell’s Extra Lives; and all the great video essayists giving shape to that dynamic form.

More vital than any of that verbiage, though, are our relationships with other people, the end-in-themselves all our playful communication’s meant to serve. In this strange time, neighbors become co-op pals and saboteurs, and old friends stay in touch playing games together online. Whatever the state of our democratic experiment, the pursuit of happiness is alive and well. Still, as anyone can see, the ever-increasing pressures on teachers, to say nothing of other workers, might make the cultivation of the intellect, the inner life, creative pursuits or even just a hobby practically impossible anymore. More than anything else, then, the work we undertake this coming year will be to support and encourage and appreciate the efforts of people who dare to play, to hold open the possibility of free time and uphold the value of freely-chosen activity. Ludere aude.